It is with great amusement that I read the rantings of Jordan Bateman (Canadian Taxpayers Federation). Usually I chuckle, eye roll, or just skip to the next letter, but the letter in December 17, 2015 Goat titled “Seeking donations on the street for a corporate welfare regular” truly sticks out as juvenile and worthy of a giant facepalm. This is the crowd that would tell an individual “if you are in favour of higher taxes, then just write the government a cheque and shut up.” The policy mindset of a 10 year old.
What truly annoys me about this nation we live in is how we time after time just back away from doing something great. Avro Arrow……nevermind, too big and scary! Nortel Networks….fizzle! Blackberry, just give the world the modern smart phone then….meh! Now this! Bombardier embarked on an admirable and extremely risky program: to build the only modern small to mid-sized airliner in the world build specifically for modern technology. Here is how it works. The Boeing 737 made its first flight in 1967. Yet to this day, Boeing still produces this airframe. Sure, the engines are different, the electronics are totally different, but the airframe is still certified as per 1967. It is an incredibly long and risky process to get a new airframe certified. As such, airplane and helicopter companies repeatedly upgrade the guts of aircraft in old airframes instead of building new ones. Unfortunately, modern electronics and engines have changes so much, that the old airframes are now a limiting factor in achieving newer aircraft with better performance. Also, the invention of modern materials such as carbon fibre hold incredible promise.
And so in the late 1990’s Bombardier considered producing a small to mid-sized airliner to both fill an important market need, and provide a product neglected by the makers of larger airliners, Boeing and Airbus. Development started in 2004. Over ten years later here we are, on the verge of filling its first order and only a few billion overbudget. Now a few billion dollars is a lot of money, until you put it into the context of units of airliners worth 70-100 million dollars each. In this respect, over a decade later, seems like they did a good job. The best part of this dance is that the actual aircraft is performing even better than expected. Both top speed and fuel efficiency is as much as 10 percent higher than anticipated in design. There is nobody in the aviation world from pilots to executives of competing airline manufacturers who has anything bad to say about the plane. But for some reason Bay street laughs….. “hahahahah another Bombardier bailout.”
Do we want to be a First World nation? Do we want to just sell oil, wait…beg people to take our oil? Just cut down trees and sell them, sometimes without even bothering to mill them first? Don’t kid yourselves, Canada is an engineering powerhouse, and we have to start supporting our advanced industry again, or we will become an under-developed and poorer nation. Huge American and French aerospace companies get government bailouts all the time. It is just that the Americans are smarter about it, they call it a military contract. If Boeing is in a little trouble, suddenly the Navy needs some upgrades to their Super-Hornets! The development of military aircraft pays for the very same risky engineering that goes into developing new airliners. It is bad enough that our last government helped bail out Lockheed Martin by promising to buy the F-35 flying turkey for a unit price of….wait for it….100-200 million dollars!!! It would be even worse if they refuse to support our own aerospace industry in its much more noble pursuit of reducing fuel consumption and emissions in the mid-sized airliner market. Sweden has figured it out. The Saab fighters may not be as good, but they are good enough, and at least the money stays in Sweden! The French do the same. We should do the same in Canada. NAFTA bans subsidies, but military expenditures do not apply. Let’s get back to our rich tradition of supplying the world with the best utility aircraft with modern technologies. Or, just keep pumping that oil, and cutting down our trees to buy aircraft from France or the US.